Under present conditions, being landlocked is not a serious barrier to economic development of Kyrgyzstan. Geographically located in the heart of the Eurasian continent can become a competitive advantage with the implementation of an “open skies” policy.

“Open skies” policy is an international concept, aimed at liberalizing the rules and regulation of international aviation industry, particularly commercial aviation, that is, creation of a free market for the airline industry and reduce government intervention in international aviation. It also means that the government does not interfere with decisions in determining airline routes, destinations, volumes and cost of tickets and transportation.

The main benefits of this policy are: lower airfares, the intensification of air travel, increased competition and the quality of air services, increasing the number of destinations, reducing costs for all persons employed in the sector of trade, tourism, etc.

Over the past 32 years, there have been significant changes in the regulation of air traffic. The United States initiated a policy of open skies in 1979, which led to a significant drop in prices for flights, cargo flights around the world, and as a consequence, increased international flow of passengers and cargo. Kyrgyzstan may receive the earliest benefits of the introduction of an Open Skies regime because bilateral negotiations are time consuming and not always effective.

Stop Flights

Probably all of the Kyrgyz people want to reduce the cost of air travel and improve the quality of the international airport in Kyrgyzstan. However, the paradox of public policy is precisely to limit those opportunities.

Air transportation between Kyrgyzstan and other countries are governed by bilateral intergovernmental agreements, in which routes as well as the number of flights over a certain period of time are codified. Passenger and cargo air transport operations on Kyrgyz territory are subject to compulsory licensing. The negotiation process is often opaque licensing and artificially prolonged. Licenses may not be issued, even if the airline complies with all requirements.

Such an old system, left over from the Soviet Union is preventing full use of the Manas airport throughput capacity and its development. Total passenger scheduled flights to Kyrgyzstan for 2010, according to some sources, amounted to only 656,000 passengers from international flights which accounted for 73 percent of all flights.

In comparison, in 2010, Almaty airport in southern Kazakhstan served more than 3 million passengers. Due to the high competition among carriers, tickets from Almaty on average are 30-40 percent cheaper than the tickets from the airport in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in the same direction.

The global solution

A common practice in the developed world has recently been reflected in Russia. The Russian ministry of transport introduced at the airport of Vladivostok in Russia an unprecedented regime of open skies.

Now, any foreign carrier may fly there, regardless of the conditions of its agreements on air communication with Russia. Previously, foreign airlines could fly into the country only within the limitations of existing intergovernmental agreements, and make a stopover in the country – only to refuel (landing, the landing of passengers and cargo loading and unloading is prohibited). After the introduction of open skies policy, airlines are able to make during the transit stop in Vladivostok any operation, including landing and taking on passengers.

“Open Skies” is successfully practiced in many countries around the world in different variations, including the U.S., Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia (ASEAN), Georgia, as well as in the European Union. One example: The airport of Seoul (South Korea) follows the policy, through the expansion of transit facilities for ten years could increase passenger traffic by half – from 18 million to 36 million passengers, and the number of transit passengers from 5 million to 28 million.

One of the main factors influencing the development of the airport is the liberalization of air traffic rights. Until recently, bilateral agreements on international air services were an obstacle for the development of most airports in the world, because it is regulated on a bilateral basis questions about how many flights, which airline would operate flights in which airport. With the liberalization of the carriers have appeared greater freedom in the choice of airports and more airports have the potential for earnings.

Introduction of an Open Skies regime has been desired for many years, argues Umetaliev Emil, president of the largest travel company in the country.

“Why not use Manas airport as a transit center? In Kyrgyzstan, there are no major airlines, we cannot be afraid of foreign competition, and hence it becomes expedient policy of open skies proposal. I think many will be interested in using our airport for the flight to other countries. We need to invite the world airlines to fly and use our airport, because it is the only possible way to achieve a real openness and integration with the global economy and increasing number of tourists. “

On the cusp of change

“Open Skies” allows airlines in the world without restrictions fly in the airspace and to land with the possibility of landing, disembarking, and loading and unloading of cargo. In other words, it will:

  • Increase the income of international airports in Kyrgyzstan, as well as enterprises and individuals engaged in the maintenance of these airports, airlines and passengers, which is also reflected in a significant increase in tax revenue to the state budget;
  • Reduce the cost of air travel and luggage for people departing and arriving in Kyrgyzstan;
  • Allow Kyrgyz citizens to be able to choose from a large number of competing world-class airlines.

The introduction of this policy will not create a costly government program. On the contrary, this policy will reduce the costs of the regulators. Together with the abolition of visas for developed countries, open skies policy to increase the flow of tourists and passengers, giving new impetus to the economy.

This article is originally written by CAFMI, translated and republished by Universal.

CAFMI, December 15, 2011

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

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